Venezuela’s Maduro claimed victory at U.N. — but didn’t meet with Trump

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro poses with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres after the meeting held at the agency’s headquarters on September 27, 2018.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro poses with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres after the meeting held at the agency’s headquarters on September 27, 2018. Rick Bajornas

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed that his visit to the United Nations last week was a huge success and that he showed the U.S. is trying to topple him, but he didn’t get much sympathy during the 73rd General Assembly, where most of his neighbors denounced him for human rights violations.

And a potential meeting between the Venezuelan leader and President Donald Trump did not take place, though Maduro signaled that he was willing to meet.

Even so, the leader of Venezuela’s socialist regime said he was very happy with his trip to the U.N.

“I am coming back from participating in the General Assembly … total victory. Venezuela’s truth has been heard … to consolidate our right to peace, to a sovereign life, to a happy life,” Maduro declared on a Twitter video as he left New York Friday. “I will continue moving forward, in peace. As simple as that. Victory at the U.N., total victory.”

Maduro decided to go to the U.N. at a time when growing tensions between his regime and the international community have began to fuel fears among some in Venezuela that the U.S. is forming an international coalition with the aim of invading Venezuela.

Maduro said as much during his speech at the U.N., where he accused Washington and “lackey states” of spreading fake stories in the international press of a mass exodus of Venezuelans leaving the country to escape famine, to justify the eventual invasion of his country.

But in New York, several hemispheric leaders blamed him for his country’s economic collapse, which has forced more than two million Venezuelans to leave the country, in what is fast becoming a security concern for the region.

“Venezuela is a disaster. We have to clean up and take care of what happens to the people,” Trump said Friday after meeting with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera at the White House.

And even before Maduro arrived in New York, five Latin American nations and Canada formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Maduro government for crimes against humanity in what was considered an unprecedented step.

“The situation in Venezuela is catastrophic,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday when his country joined Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Chile in the request. “The suffering of the Venezuelan people must stop.”

Maduro, however, told the international community there is no suffering, describing reports of the exodus as a hoax organized to provide artificial reasons that would justify a coup against his government.

A “fierce propaganda offensive” has been launched against Venezuela by “neighboring countries that abuse their own people,” Maduro told the General Assembly. “They have tried to build a case, to justify a coalition of countries, led by the U.S. government and its satellite governments in Latin America, that will meddle with our country,” he added.

As proof, he quoted a recent New York Times article that said Trump administration officials had met with Venezuelan military officers who had been planning to overthrow him.

But Maduro also used his speech to provide one more signal that he was willing to meet with Trump. “I would be willing to shake the hand of the president of the United States, and sit down to discuss the bilateral differences and other issues of our region,” he said.

Asked on several occasions about Venezuela last week, Trump was noncommittal but didn’t rule out the possibility of a meeting.

“We’ll see what happens. I know he wants to meet with us,” the president told reporters after the Piñera meeting.

Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter:@DelgadoAntonioM